Health secretary Sajid Javid has suggested Covid vaccinations for 16- and 17-year-olds could be given through the “existing school vaccination programme”.
Mr Javid said he had asked the NHS to prepare to deliver vaccinations to people in these age groups “as soon as possible” and suggested that the “existing school programme…could bolster this.”
His comments come after it was confirmed that 16-year-olds will be offered a first coronavirus jab in a matter of weeks and will not need the consent of their parents to get a vaccine.
When asked today when the first 16- or 17-year-olds would be able to get their vaccines, Mr Javid said: “It will be this month and so the way we’re going to roll this out, I think as people will expect, is working through the clinicians, working through GPs, through the primary care networks.
“Also, we will use hospital hubs, we will use hubs like this in Bournemouth today that I have visited, that I was very impressed by, and also we’ll be working through the already existing schools vaccination programme, which I think will help to bolster this.”
Mr Javid added: “Of course, there’s no compulsion in this – like all our vaccination offer, it’s something for people to consider and to decide if it’s something they want to do.”
He said: “Of course, [16- and 17-year-olds] may want to speak to their parents and speak to others, they may want to speak to clinicians, and we’ll be making sure that they have all the information that they need.”
Analysis by Tes earlier this year showed that because of Covid disruption in schools during the pandemic, catch-up campaigns were already needed for the existing vaccinations that take place in schools that are not connected to Covid.
Earlier today, the Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton welcomed reports that 16- and 17-year-olds are set to be offered Covid vaccinations and also said that the question of whether students between the age of 12 and 15 were offered vaccines should be kept under review.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said that schools were not expected to be involved in the “promotion, enforcement or policing” of vaccines among their students.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has now advised that 16- and 17-year-olds should be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Ministers across the UK have accepted the recommendation and the NHS is making preparations to start giving first doses in the coming weeks.
The prime minister urged families to listen to the JCVI advice about extending the vaccination programme to children.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Scotland, Boris Johnson said: “I would just urge all families thinking about this across the country to listen to the JCVI.
“They are extremely expert, they’re among the best, if not the best, in the world – they know what’s safe and I think we should listen to them and take our lead from them.”